Categories: INDIA NEWS

Maharashtra: Schools, colleges shut in Pune; weeklong lockdown in Vidarbha

Pune district administration announced restrictions on night-time movement, large gatherings, restaurants and bars in view of a spike in Covid-19 cases, while schools and colleges will remain shut until February 28. The decision was taken at a review meeting chaired by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Amravati Guardian Minister Yashomati Thakur said on Sunday that certain city areas in Amravati, Akola and Buldhana districts will go under lockdown for a week from Tuesday.

“In Maharashtra, the positivity rate is going up. In Pune district, it has gone up to 10 per cent. Two weeks ago, the positivity rate was only about 4.5 to 5 per cent. It has grown fast. Last year, we had seen a similar trend where the positivity rate had grown from 2 to 4 per cent to 10 per cent in first few months and then for next three months the rate had become very high. To avoid this, we are taking some precautionary measures,” Pune Divisional Commissioner Saurabh Rao said Sunday after a meeting where state Labour Minister Dilip Walse Patil, MPs Girish Bapat, Shrirang Barne, Vandana Chavan, and Pune Mayor Murlidhar Mohol were also present.

Rao said in Pune the positivity rate has gone up since February 1 after remaining under control between September 15 and January 31. He said that it has been decided to shut down schools and colleges until February 28 (the decision will be reviewed during the next meeting scheduled for February 26), and hotels, restaurants, and bars are also being directed to close at 11 pm (instead of 1.30 am as per prevailing guidelines).

‘Limited curfew’ will be imposed between 11 pm and 6 am from Monday. People can step out of their homes only for essential work. Vegetable vendors, newspaper vendors and others involved in morning activities will be excluded.

Like schools and colleges, private coaching classes will also be asked to shut down. However, those providing coaching for civil services (MPSC/UPSC) will be allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity.

The police have been asked to strictly implement the directives pertaining to marriages and other functions. During the meeting, Pawar also directed the authorities to focus on ‘hotspot areas’.

Although no decision has been taken to curb inter-district transport, Rao said travellers, especially those coming from Vidarbha region where Covid-19 cases have seen an alarming surge recently, will be asked to strictly adhere to the Covid-19 guidelines.

On Sunday, Amravati Divisional Commissioner Piyush Singh said the municipal areas of Amravati and Achalpur cities in Amravati district, Akola, Akot and Murtizapur in Akola district and Buldhana and Chikhli in Buldhana district have been declared containment zones and will be under lockdown from 5 am on February 23 to 5 am on March 1.

“While Amravati and Akola are already under curfew from 5 pm on Saturday till 7 am on Monday, people can complete their essential works and purchases till 5 pm Monday. Thereafter, during the lockdown period, all shops, except those selling medicine, grocery, milk and vegetables, will remain closed. These shops will be allowed to operate only between 9 am and 5 pm. Public or private programmes, except marriages, well not be allowed,” Singh said.

Attendance will be restricted to 25 persons at marriages parties. Curbs on such parties have also been extended to containment zones outside the municipal limits of the district.

The Amravati division has been recording over 1,000 infections daily for nearly the last three weeks. Officials said a vast majority of these cases were asymptomatic and fatalities very low despite the surge — the five districts together accounted for 16 deaths. The number of Covid-19 tests, too, has increased from about 1,200 per day three days ago to around 3,000 per day, officials added.

Public transportation has also been suspended between 5 am on February 23 and 5 am on March 1, while private vehicles have been allowed only for unavoidable journeys, like health check-up, hospitalisation or travel outside the city, Singh said.

Restaurants owners, both inside and outside containment zones, have been told to shut their premises, though home delivery services have been allowed. “Offices will remain closed inside the containment zones and will operate with only 15 per cent attendance outside them. Religious places will also remain closed within the containment zones. Those outside the containment zones can remain open only between 9 am and 5 pm,” Singh told The Indian Express.

Schools and colleges in the Amravati division, comprising Washim and Yavatmal besides the three districts, have not yet opened. Non-containment zone restrictions have also been extended to Yavatmal and Washim districts.

On Sunday, Amravati division saw 1,552 new cases with Amravati district leading the table with 709 cases followed by Akola (342), Buldhana (301), Washim (125) and Yavatmal (75). On death count, the division saw a dip with six deaths on Sunday compared to 16 on Saturday.

Covid continues to surge in Nagpur and Wardha districts of Nagpur division. On Sunday, Nagpur district recorded 625 cases and Wardha saw 153 new cases. Gadchiroli (7), Gondia (3), Bhandara (21) and Chandrapur (29) have remained relatively unaffected by the new spread. Nagpur division saw 12 deaths led by Nagpur recording eight fatalities.

As reported earlier, Amravati and Yavatmal samples have shown fast-spreading new mutants of coronavirus, E484K and N440K.

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